The Quarter Dollar is a United States coin worth 25 cents. It has been produced on and off since 1796 and consistently since 1831.
After the initial issue of the "Draped Bust" type (1796 - 1807), a second Capped Bust obverse was used until 1838. In 1838, the type was replaced by the Seated Liberty type design.
The weight was 6.68 grams initially, then was reduced to 6.22 grams in 1853. All silver denominations changed again after the Mint Act of 1873 which, in an attempt to make U.S. coinage the currency of the world, added a small amount of mass to the dime, quarter, and half-dollar to bring their weights in line with fractions of the French 5-franc piece. The change also ensured the quarter dollar (which is valued 2.5 times the dime) weighed 2.5 times the dime (6.25 g), and the half dollar (twice the value of the quarter dollar) weighed twice what the quarter dollar weighed (12.5 g). In this way, a specific weight of these coins, no matter the mixture of denominations, would always be worth the same. This relation in weight and value continued in the cupro-nickel coins from 1965 on. In both instances, the change in weight was indicated on the coins by having arrow heads on both sides of the date. The arrows stayed in the design from 1853 to 1855 and again in 1873 and 1874, and were then removed (later coins stayed with their new weight). A similar design change was also implemented on the half dime, one dime and half dollar coins.
The Seated Liberty portrait designs appeared on most regular-issue silver United States coinage from 1836 through 1891. The denominations which feature the Goddess of Liberty in a Seated Liberty design include the half dime, the dime, the quarter, the half dollar, and until 1873 the silver dollar, as well as the short-lived twenty cent piece. The obverse shows Liberty seated on a rock, holding a pole with a Liberty cap on it and supporting a shield. On the reverse, the denomination is spelled as QUAR. DOL. (quarter dollar), unlike on earlier types where it was given as 25 Cents.
The reverse shows the American Eagle as before. In 1866, a scroll inscribed with the motto IN GOD WE TRUST was added to the design.
In 1892, the type was replaced by the Liberty Head design (known as the Barber Quarter). In later years, there were also changes in size and composition (the quarter is now lighter and made of copper-nickel), but these coins have never been demonetised and are still legal tender. This, of course, is of academic interest only, as their numismatic value is enormously higher than their face value.
The obverse of the coin shows the symbolic figure of Liberty clad in a flowing dress and seated upon a rock. In her left hand, she holds a Liberty pole surmounted by a Phrygian cap (a type of cap which in Ancient Rome was worn by freed slaves). With her right hand, she supports the Union Shield, which has thirteen vertical stripes, white and red, with a blue horizontal bar on top. The colours are represented by heraldic hatching (thin lines indicating the colour - horizontal stripes for blue, vertical for red, no stripes for white). Across the shield, a diagonal banner inscribed with the word LIBERTY.
During 1840, the design was slightly modified with additional drapery of Liberty's dress, flowing down from her left elbow.
Around above, thirteen stars representing the 13 original states in the Union.
In the exergue below the figure, the date of issue: [year]. Between 1853 and 1855 and in 1873-1874, arrows on both sides of the date indicate a reduction and later increase in the weight of the denomination.
The rim is beaded.
The main device on the reverse is an eagle, perched, with open wings, looking to left. On its breast, the Union Shield at centre, with thirteen vertical stripes, white and red, with a blue horizontal bar on top. The colours are represented by heraldic hatching (thin lines indicating the colour - horizontal stripes for blue, vertical for red, no stripes for white). From the eagle's perspective, it holds a bundle of three arrows in its left talon, and an olive branch in its right talon.
The arrows and olive branch together symbolise that the United States has "a strong desire for peace, but will always be ready for war". The eagle has its head turned towards the olive branch, to symbolise a preference for peace.
Around above, a scroll inscribed with the motto IN GOD WE TRUST.
Around the outer rim, the name of the country: UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. Below the eagle, the abbreviated value and denomination QUAR. DOL. (quarter dollar).
The rim is beaded.